It was at the first night of Prasso, a 12-week discipleship class, that I noticed her. She had chosen a seat near the door. Judging from the distant, cautious look in her eyes, her choice of seating was no accident. Escape for her would be easy if she felt uncomfortable. As I taught the class, I wondered if anything was getting through the all-too-apparent fogginess of her mind. Amazingly, she did not choose escape, and in fact stayed, not only through the lecture, but also participated in the small group discussion. That night was the beginning of God's amazing transformation of a life most would have said could never be salvaged.
Harmony Ierley, photo available at www.hh76.com/photocd
Taylor (not her real name) had four different fathers, which meant several grandparents, cousins, and siblings. She once said, "When Mom changes husbands, what am I supposed to do with my feelings for the discarded stepfather?" Taylor taught herself not to trust and not to form attachments. It hurt too much when the breakup came. Then there were the sexual abuses by her stepbrother, by a friend of her brother, a cousin, and the worst, by a stepfather, which resulted in a pregnancy. She was not given choices. Her mother told her, "You must abort this baby; you are too young to have a child." Her mom's divorce from husband number two did not heal the pain of the abortion, nor did time.
As she moved through her teenage years, drugs, alcohol, and promiscuity characterized her life. Taylor desperately needed someone to notice that she was hurting, but her mother was too busy fulfilling her own needs; and Taylor had learned "fathers" come and go, so you don't count on them. During this time she met a woman who gave her the love she craved, but it was not without a price; it resulted in a lesbian relationship. Jealousy and abuse drove Taylor from this relationship. Once again Taylor felt empty, and the pain of the past was almost more than she could bear. There were, however, two people in her life that were always there to pick up the pieces—"papa" and "meemaw." She loved them so much. They not only gave her unconditional love, but also tried to instill godly values in her life. Taylor spent a lot of time at their home, often because she did not want to go to her own home. It was not a welcoming place.
SHE BEGAN TO
ACCEPT AND OWN
OF GOD'S LOVE
FOR HER. HE
DIED FOR HER.
In Taylor's twenties, drugs and alcohol continued to be a way of life. She became "street smart," even selling drugs to help support her habit. She said that having a supply of drugs that she could sell or withhold gave her a sense of power that she enjoyed. During this time she met a married man who was separated from his wife. Their relationship culminated in marriage. She told him, "I don't cook, and I don't iron. Don't ask me!" He said he could live with that. A year or so into the marriage, Taylor became pregnant. For the duration of the pregnancy, Taylor abstained from "using." They had a little girl, and Taylor felt maybe she'd finally done something that would make everyone proud of her. Instead, she was told she'd never make a good mother.
When I met Taylor, the daughter was 12 years old and in a Christian school, but Taylor and her husband were on rocky ground in their marriage. Taylor told me she had accepted Christ while in elementary school, but her life did not show forth Christ. Taylor's husband was very blatant about the fact that he was not interested in anything that had to do with church. It was obvious that both of them contributed to their flawed marriage, but I felt if God could do a work in Taylor's life that their home and marriage would change.
Taylor completed the 12 weeks of Prasso. She did all of her homework lessons and attended all of the 12 weekly sessions. When we met for the last night of classes, Taylor had finally admitted to herself that she had a problem, several actually. She asked me if she could meet with me one on one. The "garbage" (her word) in her life was destroying her. At first, I just listened. She had enormous amounts of built-up anger and resentment toward her mother, her stepfather, and all the others who had hurt her through the years. She felt cheated by her mother; Taylor craved a relationship with her, but avoided seeing her, although they lived in the same city.
Harmony Ierley, photo available at
As we began to untangle the knotted fragments of her life, Taylor slowly began to take responsibility for her own destructive choices and sinful ways. It was an uphill climb with victories and defeats. She chose to keep a pet sin—marijuana, and that sin led her back into her former lifestyle all too often, a lifestyle of deception and lies. Because of this, the very foundation of her marriage was crumbling. Galatians 6:8 says, "For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life."
Taylor chose to return to another session of Prasso. This time the lessons on the character of God took on new meaning. She began to accept and own the truth of God's love for her. He died for her. "Behold what manner of love the father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God" (1 John 3:1). "By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us" (1 John 3:16). For the first time in years Taylor cried. She cried because she found in Christ what she had searched for—unconditional love from a Father. Feeling secure in the love of Christ, Taylor reached out to her mother with love and forgiveness.
As Taylor's husband saw God truly change his wife, he decided to go to church. The pastor was able to lead Jim to a saving knowledge of Christ. Jim drank in the Truth of God's Word. He began opening up to Taylor with feelings and emotions he had never before shared. He was a new man.
Taylor had one more area that needed release. Once more she came to Prasso, sat through the lectures and participated in her discussion group. One evening after class she grabbed me and said, "We've got to talk—now!" We went to my office, and as soon as the door was shut, she began to cry a woeful cry. She said, "I can't keep it in any longer. It hurts too badly." I asked what she meant, and she said in a whisper, "The abortion. The abortion. I killed my baby. I killed my baby." I held her until she quieted. I repeated to her a verse we learned in class. "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1). I asked her to pray and give forgiveness to her mother for making her go through with the abortion. She also prayed and gave forgiveness to her stepfather.
I have marveled over and over at the beauty of salvaged wreckage.
Laura Baker is President of Prasso Ministries. To learn more about Prasso, go to www.prassoministries.com.